Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Thesis

First Advisor

Seay, Cameron

Abstract

Information technology (IT) has shaped fundamental changes throughout society. IT has facilitated the shift from an industrial age to a network age. In addition to altering commerce, education, government and communications, IT affects the construction of and response to social problems such as poverty and inequality. The very existence of the “digital divide”--‐--‐or lack of access to IT for certain segments of the population--‐--‐ is evidence of the ability of technology to worsen existing inequality. At the same time, technology promotes organizing efforts to disadvantaged communities, and it can connect people to a range of opportunities. The community technology movement--‐--‐a grassroots social movement that employs IT to empower historically disadvantaged individuals and communities--‐--‐demonstrates the potential of IT to serve as a tool of social change. In our research, we answer the following questions: What are the technological gaps that exist in low socioeconomic rural communities such as Vance County? And what are the community resources and potential partnerships specifically relevant to establishing a community technology center in rural communities such as those in Vance County? For this research, we created an analytical community--‐mapping model that collected, populated, organized and generated reliable data useful in determining the unmet technological needs of a rural community and producing an on--‐line or print “map” of the wide variety of relevant technology literacy activities and public access sites in a low socioeconomic rural community. The overall approach to this research was that of mixed methods. The proposed model consisted of a needs assessment that included a proven survey (that we modified for Vance County), interview questions, a case study, and evaluation research that will aid communities in discovering what digital technologies are currently available, and to whom. Judging from our data, we concluded that Vance County has several organizations that serve underserved populations. However, there is a gap in computer literacy service to youth in the community, and there are no organizations that use their computers solely for computer literacy training. Our findings also reveal that Vance County community technology efforts are fragmented and the community’s efforts in this area are not visible to the community nor are their linkages among them. Finally, as a result of our data, we were not able to produce an effect map of relevant technology literacy activities in Vance County, as there were no activities or programs to report. Our recommendations, as a result of our research are as follows: 1) To submit a proposal to the policy makers of the city of Henderson to include community technology into their economic and community development policy goals. 2) To propose a Community Technology Planner position to the City Council. 3) To create a community forum to discuss community technology needs in Vance County.

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